Tag Archives: formatting

Word Processing: Definition of a Character

I teach CIT (computer information technology) to everyone grades Kindergarten to adults. One thing I can’t emphasize enough when teaching word processing is the basic principle that EVERYTHING is a character. I use Microsoft Word in the classroom, but if you don’t have access to it, you can download Open Office for FREE from OpenOffice.org. This word processing program similar features.

What is a Character

The computer sees EVERYTHING you type as a character. Not just the letters, numbers, and what YOU think of as characters. Spaces you create with the space bar, the tabs you create with the tab key, and the new line characters you create with the enter key are all characters.  People (kids and adults alike) get so frustrated over formatting issues. Ninety percent of those frustrations can be alleviated by understanding this concept.

Microsoft word and Open Office both have a feature you can toggle on and off called “Show/Hide ¶”. You can find the “Show/Hide” toggle on the home ribbon (ribbon definition post coming soon). The button has the paragraph symbol (¶) on it.

Illustration 1: Circled in red on the Microsoft Word window above is the Hide/Show toggle.
Open Source
Illustration 2: The Hide/Show toggle is circled in red on the Open Source window above.

The “Hide/Show” toggle not only shows you the paragraph symbols in your document. It also shows you a dot for each space created with the space bar, and a tab character (tab ) where every there is white space created with the tab key.

It is imperative that you only use the space bar to create a space in between words. The tab key should be used to create indents or to align columns of text, and the page break to start a new page. I will create a video tutorial to demonstrate all of this as soon as I have time and will put a link to it in this post when I do. If you have any questions on this subject, please feel free to post them below, or email me at amy@amylsutton.com.